Published 12:02 am Saturday, March 10, 2012

DUTIES: Managing the county’s budget.




1. What if any adminstrative personnel changes do you plan to make if elected?

2. Should the county remain on the unit system, or return to the district system?

3. Current commissioners have been critized in this election for the mileage levels at which they have been compensated. Why are so many miles required, and how do you justify these? (For non-incumbents, how do you plan to handle mileage if elected?

4. One of the major tasks of the commission is to manage the county’s finances. What experience do you have in financial management? Can you read a financial statement?

5. What’s the biggest issues facing the county in the next four years?




CHAIRMAN QUESTION: No. They are doing a good job.

1. That’s one of the best things that ever happened to this county. I can look back at the bank accounts and I can see the difference. We can’t argue with the results that it produced. It helped bring this county forward. It controlled spending. You can control the equipment. You can get the same results. What I’m saying, you can get the same projects completed with less equipment. And you can dispense equipment from a local point. It’s called equipment consolidation. When we consolidated that, it just goes out from one central point. Not only that, but it reduced the county debt tremendously. We came from an $18 M debt, we’ve reduced that down to $13 (million). You’re talking about $4.5, $5M reduction. That’s a lot of money.

Here’s something else, You’re talking about the future of the county now. The more dirt roads that we lime rock, means that we can cut the maintenance down at least by 50 percent.

We did a road, got a big 3-inch rain, and it held. If a pothole comes, all you got to do is go back put lime rock back in the hole, just like you’d patch the pothole. That way, you can eliminate even a motor grader. Not all of them, now, you’ve still got to have some. But it’s a cost saving factor. We’ve got to look at the future of the county. Our future of the county is going to depend on revenue. I think our revenue is going to be short in the future. I am a Republican that’s conservative. I’m not a liberal Republican.

I am as stingy with the county’s money as I am with my own.

I don’t mean to go to the extreme with being stingy. We need to meet the needs of the county. But this is the taxpayers’ money that we are stewards over, and we need to stretch as far as it will go. The future of the county depends on it. And I’m against any new taxes. Let’s use what we have. This is one thing I like about the unit system. With the unit system, you can control spending. That’s what we’ve got to do.

3. Actually, I personally really don’t know what the demands are for District 1, 2, 3 or 4, when it comes to the phone calls that they get. But I do know this, the mileage has been addressed. It’s all under one line item now in the budget. It’s based on $8,000 per commissioner. At the present, it’s under budget. But it’s coming pretty close. If the rate of spending continues, they’ll have to come before the commission and ask for an extension.

4. The budget is set up on $21 million. This is what I look at. We are five months into the budget. We look at what is spent and what is remaining. Try to make them aware, or try to make them aware. We try to say, “look here now, this is your budget. You’ve got X number of dollars to deal with. But you better look and see if there’s any way you can prolong it. In other words, it’s your responsibility as a department head to manage that budget. That’s what I look at.

5. I think what we’re gonna have is a revenue problem. We’re going to have to manage, we’re going to have stay on top of it. Every time gasoline goes up, usage drops, therefore your gasoline tax is down. When gas comes down, there’s more usage, your collection is more. We’re just going to have to manage. Sales tax, I think, will be down, therefore, we’re going to have to manage.



A farmer, he currently is serving his 34th year as a member and supervisor of the Covington County Soil and Water District, which included several years as a member of the Alabama State Committee for Soil and Water.

CHAIRMAN QUESTION: First thing I would like to do is reevaluate every position to see if the person in that particular job, what the responsibilities are, what they’re pay is, and if that is the correct pay for that responsibility before I’d make a judgment on whether or not any employee would be let go. I think we should go to an annual evaluation on all employees. There is a system in place, a policy, whereby you terminate, that you have to follow.

1. It should remain on the unit system because financially that’s the best way. You can conserve resources. There’re some situations with providing resources that need to be improved, and I think by having worked in soil and water, and being in the engineers in service, I can better understand those situations. I think it’s more of a management problem than a system problem.

3. I believe since we went on the unit system and centralized mangement and maintenance of the roads, it does not require the travel that it did under the previous system. After reviewing expense accounts of all commissioners, there’s some commissioners whose expense seems to be out of line. Two commissioners had travel over $10,000. If you are reimbursed on the state mileage rates of 54.5 cents, that means you’ve got to travel 20,000 miles a year. And I just cannot justify that. I personally believe we should not be reimbursed for travel within the county unless it is an official meeting, or you are the official representative of the county at a meeting.

4. As I pursued my college education, I got a degree in ag engineering, I took all of my electives in farm management so I would be able to manage money from a financial standpoint. I have run a farming business for 44 years, and there have been some tough times. I have been able to cut expenses. I know what it is to do with what you have to get farther down the road until conditions improve. The other thing is, I have set on the Soil and Water Conservation board for 34 years, and I have been the secretary treasurer for that agency for a long time. I am given the responsibility of managing money of the district with the consent of the board. I have the Authority to spend X amount without their consent. We have placed money that we do not need that’s in an interest bearing account. We structure it so that we can take out some every month if need to. We do not keep a large bank account.



Lewis is a Covington County native who retired here after a career in aerospace engineering and industrial project management.

CHAIRMAN QUESTION: First of all, I recognize the fact that I, as chairman, is only one of five people. So for me to presume to go in there and make changes, even if they’re warranted, would not be very smart on my part. I do, however, promise to evaluate people who that are directly reportable to the commission. But I don’t plan to start evaluating the average worker for the county or the average administrator for the county. We need to make sure those jobs are being done properly for the county, but our job is to deal with the people who report directly to the commission and make them accountable for what goes on in the county, and I promise to do that.

1. That’s a very simple answer – the county should remain on the unit system. This county is going to face difficult times in the future because of money. It’s a way of saving money and for more effectively managing equipment. The plan was to eliminate the duplication of equipment. I don’t know how successful they7’ve been at that yet. I think once that’s accomplished, we won’t have the duplication we have and we can effectively use the equipment we have.

Additionally, if there you need for additional equipment in the future, instead of going out and buying it, and having responsibility of maintaining it, you can rent it or lease it and eliminate the responsibility for it when it goes back.

3. Just like I manage my own business. I will document the mileage I use and the purpose for which I use it. I see no problem with legitimate mileage being charged, but when someone is charging the equivalent of 100 to 150 miles per day, and there’s 30 days in a month, I think that’s excessive. I like what the county has done now by putting the mileage charges by individual commissioner rather than one line item. I think that practice should be continued and monitoried. One think I’m for is to have a plan for the whoel county. A strategic plan. (Lewis cited Opp’s recent decision to partner with Troy University to develop a strategic plan.) I think the county could do something akin to that, and we would know where we’re going. It appears to me that we deal with thing son a day to day basis. That may be a misperception, but that’s the way a lot f opepel look at it.

4. Yes. I have looked at the financial statement I know there has been some erroneous information given out about the county’s finances, budget and indebtedness, and I think as a chairman you set the tone and the direction of the county. Hopefully, we will have people on the commission that can also read a financial statement. The commissioners should fit together like a glove and have different responsibilities in different areas of responsibilities.

It’s also the chairman’s responsibility to hire the key people in the county and hold them accountable for what goes on. I have no problem with keeping or firing people if the need arises to do that.

5. There’s been a perception for many years that a load of dirt would get you a lot of votes. I think the unit system, where you have to have a record of what’s being done, will eliminate a lot of that. I think we will have more effective management of our money if we continue to have that system. We’re not road commissioners anymore. We’re responsible for lots of money and systems – the court system, the courthouse, the county jail, the roads and the bridges. We’re stewards of the people’s money and should take that job very seriously.

As a business manager, I built power plants, refineries, chemical plans and industrial facilities. The biggest project I ever managed was about $400 million, with 700 people at the construction site and a staff of 200-250 in office doing planning, scheduling, cost control, budget specs and getting material to the site. In effect, I had my own construction company within a larger company. If I didn’t do it properly, I was going to get fired. I think that might ought to apply to governmental positions as well.